A great number of years ago I found Deborah Kaplan’s excellent Jane Austen Among Women – I am currently rereading the first couple of chapters, which deal with women Austen knew. From the Knights to the Chutes; from the Powletts to the Deedes family, there are diaries and letters which tell us a wealth of information about life in England during Austen’s lifetime — which, for my research, coincides with the youth and adulthood of the sisters Eliza Chute (of The Vyne) and Augusta Smith (of Suttons), as well as the children Augusta and Charles Smith brought up at Suttons, my Emma Smith (aka Emma Austen Leigh) among them.
Kaplan has an interesting narrative for chapter 1: Genteel Domesticity. She touches on fertility and sexuality (so many children for some couples); “growing up gentry” (if I may term it so!); maiden aunts (for Emma there was “Aunt” – Miss Judith Smith [father’s sister] and “Aunt Emma” [mother’s sister]). Wonderful to read Kaplan’s thoughts on writing circles and visiting circles. Time and again I’d find myself saying “yes”, for her conclusions echoed my own.
Not a new book, but still available, if only from a library – and highly recommended!